It’s an exciting and also a daunting time to be entering the workforce. If you recently graduated with an agricultural science degree, chances are you will have little trouble finding work in areas of animal nutrition, crop science and education. Potentially, you could also end up within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc – or even here at the Irish Farmers Journal.
A recurring theme, however, within the agricultural science space is that, while recent graduates are well-trained and knowledgeable, they also benefit from a deeper understanding of client needs and the many challenges facing the agricultural community.
Msc in Animal Science
This is partly why the School of Agriculture and Food Science at University College Dublin (UCD) are introducing a new Masters programme in animal science. The new full or part-time MSc will be launched this September and will be entirely online. Programme director, Dr Kieran Meade, says it was developed after extensive communications with different employers and stakeholders within the agricultural industry.
“There’s a general realisation that we have significant challenges ahead of us,” he says. “We need a new type of thinking - or a complementary set of skills - where we can build on the skillsets people have already. An ag degree from UCD has a strong track record, but holistic thinking across the sector is also required.”
The MSc postgraduate programme will deliver new modules in areas of animal science, including nutrition, reproduction, genomics and genetics, infection, immunity and health and sustainable livestock systems. The teaching will be led by subject experts and informed by the latest research being performed on the UCD Lyons farm, as well as within other national and international research bodies.
“I’m delighted [the programme] contains so much new content,” Kieran says. “It’s not just ‘more’ animal science; it’s tailored with new specific content which will allow people to really address their interests. I think a key feature of it is you can take a broad MSc programme - which will enable you to get everything; the whole breadth of the industry - or you could tailor it to your specific area.
“If you wanted to become a specialist in reproduction, for example, you could take reproduction specific modules and then do a research proposal to enable you to hone and develop specific skills and expertise in the reproduction area. It’s a very flexible kind of ‘palette’ of options.”
The one-year programme has been designed with the needs of people in employment, and flexible part-time (two to four years completion) MSc options are also available. In the future, Kieran plans to develop certificate and diploma options in addition to the Masters programme for those seeking to upskill in a specific subject area.
Since the programme is entirely online, they aim to bring their modules “to life” with the use of technology - including drone footage – and will also feature guest lectures from experts within the industry.
“Our undergrads have a very broad skillset,” he explains. “What the Masters will do is enable them to better compete in the marketplace and take on new roles. One of our aims, for example, is to encourage more animal science graduates into research. We know how important research is in determining the solutions of the future. What we’d like to do is help them be much more familiar with understanding, engaging with and participating in research. And even if they don’t actively engage with research themselves, we want to make sure they’re familiar with the process and can identify quality information. There are benefits right across the sector in terms of being more scientifically literate.”
It’s not often you see a science-focused programme take a holistic and intrapersonal approach to assignments, but this is actually what is required of today’s animal science professional. Often, technical skills can be well developed while other essential skills in the areas of communication, effective leadership and teamwork might be under-developed.
Kieran says meeting the challenge of sustainable growth in livestock production systems will require a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary skillset. Graduates need commercial awareness, as well as problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills.
“[We are hearing] it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between graduates, because people are coming out with good degrees, but they haven’t had time to tailor their CVs,” he explains. “The Masters will help with that. We’re really trying to develop the programme in a way that will foster group work and collaboration – I really want graduates to understand that what they get out of this MSc is directly proportional to what they put into it.
“They will learn to articulate what the issues [within the industry] are, and what’s realistic (from what research can offer) in terms of what the solutions are,” he adds. “We do believe successes in the workplace will be significantly enhanced by the ability to effectively communicate knowledge and bring people along with you.”
Applicants must hold a minimum of a second class honours degree in a related science discipline, though mature applicants with relevant experience may be accepted. CL
The UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science will host a hybrid information event on Wednesday 29 June from 4-7pm where additional information on the MSc in Animal Science programme will be available. Register online at www.ucd.ie/agfood
Any interested individuals are encouraged to contact Dr Kieran Meade at email@example.com to discuss eligibility. Learn more about this programme at www.ucd.ie/agfood